VIKINGS: Grant says Marshall, Tingelhoff should be in Hall, Blair overlooked
Bud Grant coached three of the Minnesota Vikings' four defensive linemen with Pro Football Hall of Fame on their resume -- Alan Page, Carl Eller and newly elected Chris Doleman. He did not coach John Randle, but followed his career. I gave Grant a call to ask what kind of a front four that bunch would make. A Hall of Famer himself, Grant talked about that and so much more during an entertaining interview that included a few playful shots at former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula as well as his appreciation for the way Bill Belichick coaches the New England Patriots.
BS: The Vikings have four defensive linemen in the Hall of Fame -- Alan Page, John Randle, Carl Eller and Chris Doleman. How tough would it have been to run or pass on that foursome if they'd played together?
BG: You're talking about different eras. When we started, we had the head slap. You could make 'em blink. They took that away (starting in 1977). Eller had a great move (after administering a head slap). Jim Marshall had that technique. We used to teach it. Then somebody complained -- probably Shula.
BS: He was on the competition committee back then, right?
BG: He was (from 1975-95). I remember we used to jump off Dave Roller's back (to block kicks). Shula called it inhumane. It happened to Shula and he changed the rule.
BS: He's the one who stopped you from leaping off a guy's back?
BG: We had guys who would get a running start. Roller would hit the center and
drive him back, and they'd step on his back and leap. We called Roller a grubber. He got down there and penetrated as far as he could and tried to stay on all fours and we'd have a back to jump off. We did it before he joined us but he was the best grubber we had. He made the all-grubber team. It was effective, what we did. If Shula hadn't changed the rule, everybody might have done it. We worked a lot on blocking kicks. I was the special teams coach. That's something I did in Winnipeg (as a CFL head coach), and I did it here. We had a plan for every game of who the weakest guy was. It only worked one percent of the time but it was worth it.
BS: Jerry Burns (who replaced Grant as the Vikings' coach in 1986) knew the importance of special teams. But did any of the other coaches who came after you ask you for special teams advice?
BG: They're more involved in looking at films and lose sight of the human element. They have to see it on film and paper and printouts. There's a lot more of the game than that. I think Belichick does an excellent job with personnel. He recognizes football players. He sees what their particular skills might be. He does as good a job as anybody.
BS: I know it's hypothetical but I want to ask again about what it would be like to have a front four of Page, Randle, Eller and Doleman?
BG: You'd have Page on the right side (of the defense) because most teams are right-handed and his pursuit is so good. A lot of times, they'd run a sweep the other way from him and he'd get over and make the tackle. Page was in all those plays going the other way. Carl could get to the quarterback but he knocked down a lot of balls, too. He had great arm length. Doleman was a special athlete. Big, strong guy. Great rusher. Great quickness.
BS: When Doleman joined the Vikings, you tried him at outside linebacker before moving him to end. What made you decide to switch him?
BG: We thought of him as a linebacker at first. When he played on the outside (as an end), he was in on every play. He rushed on every play. His athleticism really lent itself to being an end rather than a linebacker. He didn't deliver a blow from the linebacker stance. From end, he had the ability to be in on every play and he didn't have to meet those blocking backs and people pulling. He was stronger and could run over people. At linebacker, he wasn't as adept.
BS: Did you expect Doleman to be elected to the Hall of Fame the other day?
BG: You never know, but he's been lobbying really hard to get in. We've written letters and recommendations. He's worked hard to get in. Having said that, it's still deserving. Like I told him, you'll get in but the longer it takes, the more you'll appreciate it.
BS: When he played for you, did you think he would some day make it into the Hall of Fame?
BG: We drafted him as the fourth player (overall in 1985). You expect every one of those guys taken with one of the first few picks to be great. Whoever the Vikings draft this year (with the third overall pick), the expectations are very, very high. You don't predict Pro Bowls, but you expect an exceptional player.
BS: How many former Vikings still belong in the Hall of Fame, in your opinion?
BG: Jim Marshall and Mick Tingelhoff should be there. The only other one might be (Chuck) Foreman but he didn't play long enough. He had five good years but with a running back, they want to see 10.
BS: What about Cris Carter, who was a finalist this year?
BG: Cris will get in eventually. You've got to wait. One guy that didn't play on the good teams was Matt Blair. He played a long time and had a great career. I think he had 17 or 19 blocked kicks. (Blair holds the Vikings' team record with 20-1/2 blocks.) We won't have 17 blocked kicks in the next 17 years. Matt was a great player but didn't get the recognition.
BS: Did the Super Bowl turn out the way you expected -- with the Giants winning?
BG: If (Wes) Welker doesn't drop the ball, that could have meant the difference in the game. The fact (Tom) Brady didn't realize he was throwing it out of the end zone (hurt the Patriots when a safety was called). The mistakes in the games, many times, are bigger than the plays. The Giants fumbled three times and recovered all three of them. The breaks went the Giants' way.
BS: Did you ever let the other team score to get the ball back, as the Patriots did in the final minutes of the Super Bowl?
BG: No. But I called that as I was watching the game. I said, "They have to let the Giants score." That's the only way they'd see the ball. It could have cost the Giants the game when that kid (Ahmad Bradshaw) went in (for the touchdown). I thought it was something I might consider doing if I was coaching.
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